Stewardship 2015

The Stewardship Sermon

A Message on Stewardship from the Treasurer

The Practicalities of Pledging

photo of pew label

 

Gracious God, giver of all we have and hold as stewards; grant the people of this church a deep and abiding awareness that all things come from you - our health, our incomes, our jobs, our talents and our generous impulse.  Send your Holy Spirit to help us as we swim against the rising tides of materialism, envy, individualism and greed in our culture.  When we are tempted to think of money as a private matter, remind us that you have asked for part of what we are given, to be returned to you as a symbol of our awareness that you give all we have.  And further, help us to help each other in this grace of giving, for you are the lover of our souls and call us to nothing less than transformation in Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Collect on Stewardship
from Fr. Wood’s Sermon on Stewardship Sunday, October 26, 2014

A Message on Stewardship from the Treasurer

As Treasurer of the Church of the Advent, it is my task to oversee the secular stewardship of the church’s resources in support of our corporate life and mission, and our parish relies on the tithes of parishioners to provide all of our worship, programming, and outreach.  With this in mind, I would like to offer the following overview of the financing of the parish that may be helpful in considering an appropriate pledge for 2015:

(1)  The parish continues to operate with a balanced budget in which resources are carefully and conscientiously allocated to support the needs of our worship and programming, our clergy and staff, our outreach, and our physical plant.  This balanced-budget discipline is important for the long-term financial health of our parish, and I hope it gives confidence to parishioners that their contributions are being well-managed and well-directed.  The church also undertook a voluntary audit this year to ensure further transparency and probity in our financial stewardship.

(2)  Our beautiful and historic church building poses particular challenges for our parish, as the high fixed costs of maintaining this inheritance continue regardless of our programming needs.  This past year we have undertaken several major necessary and important projects, including, perhaps most visibly, the installation of a new elevator that restores full access to Moseley Hall and our parish offices for those unable to use the stairs and ongoing repairs to the north and east walls and windows of the church.  Another major renovation project, in which we cleaned the walls and ceiling and updated the lighting in our parish library and the Mt. Vernon Street vestibule was graciously supported by a bequest from the estate of a much-loved parishioner, Ann Evans.

(3)  Fortunately, our large capital and maintenance costs are defrayed by an endowment left to the church by former parishioners and augmented by new bequests.  This support is essential to our corporate life, and it provides a visible witness of one meaning of the “communion of the saints” that composes the body of Christ.  Our forebears have fulfilled their responsibility to us by providing us the glorious building in which we worship and a large portion of the means to support it.  It is up to us to fill it with purpose through our worship, our programming, and our outreach, and it is these aspects of our ministry that our annual pledges directly support.

(4)  For those who would prefer more concrete figures, there is this:  in round numbers it costs about $1,400,000 to run the Church of the Advent every year, which comes to about $7,000 per pledging member or family.  How does your pledge compare?

Yet, were we to end here with this set of figures, we would not have broached the central reason for this appeal to support our parish.  The mission of stewardship at the Church of the Advent is to provide for and support our parish in its physical and practical needs in order that it may continue to carry out its spiritual work.  It is thus, like so many goods in this world, important not primarily in itself, but in pointing beyond itself to its proper end:  that of worship of and glory to God and of care and concern for our fellow human beings.  Søren Kierkegaard expresses this sentiment beautifully and powerfully in the preface to one of his most accessible works, Purity of Heart is to Will One Thing:

When a woman makes an altar cloth, so far as she is able, she makes every flower as lovely as the graceful flowers of the field, as far as she is able, every star as sparkling as the glistening stars of the night.  She withholds nothing, but uses the most precious things she possesses.  She sells off every other claim upon her life that she may purchase the most uninterrupted and favorable time of the day and night for her one and only, for her beloved work.  But when the cloth is finished and put to its sacred use: then she is deeply distressed if someone should make the mistake of looking at her art, instead of at the meaning of the cloth; or make the mistake of looking at a defect, instead of at the meaning of the cloth.  For she could not work the sacred meaning into the cloth itself, nor could she sew it on the cloth as though it were one more ornament.  This meaning really lies in the beholder and in the beholder’s understanding, if he, in the endless distance of the separation, above himself and above his own self, has completely forgotten the needlewoman and what was hers to do.  It was allowable, it was proper, it was duty, it was a precious duty, it was the highest happiness of all for the needlewoman to do everything in order to accomplish what was hers to do; but it was a trespass against God, an insulting misunderstanding of the poor needle-woman, when someone looked wrongly and saw what was only there, not to attract attention to itself, but rather so that its omission would not distract by drawing attention to itself.

We give to our parish so that the mundane needs of its worldly life can be fulfilled, and we give quietly of what we have been given, like the poor widow in Jesus’s story and the needlewoman above, that God may be glorified.  Taking the needlewoman as our example, in this stewardship season, as members of the one body of Christ, I would like to ask each of us to take a few minutes to consider again the corporate needs of our parish community, and consider our ability to meet a portion of these needs.  The support of parishioners and the careful and competent management of the church’s resources are critical not in themselves but because, lacking these things, the church cannot complete its primary mission of loving God and neighbor. 

May God bless the Church of the Advent during this season, and may we together give of the bounty that has been given to us.

Yours in Christ,

Adam C. Rutledge
Treasurer

Almighty God, Father of all mercies, we thine unworthy servants do give thee most humble and hearty thanks for all thy goodness and loving-kindness to us, and to all men.  We bless thee for our creation, preservation, and all the blessings of this life; but above all, for thine inestimable love in the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ; for the means of grace, and for the hope of glory.  And, we beseech thee, give us that due sense of all thy mercies, that our hearts may be unfeignedly thankful, and that we shew forth thy praise, not only with our lips, but in our lives; by giving up ourselves to thy service, and by walking before thee in holiness and righteousness all our days; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom with thee and the Holy Ghost be all honor and glory, world without end.  Amen.
        – A General Thanksgiving, Book of Common Prayer

What follows is the practical mechanics on pledging and how it works at the Advent.  If you have been pledging for decades, you may skip the rest of the brochure.  If you haven’t, or if you have questions about how pledging works at the Advent, please read onwards!

In any case, please return your pledge card to the Advent in a collection plate or by mail, no later than November 30, the First Sunday of Advent.

Membership at the Advent

Anyone is always welcome to worship at the Advent.  And as we all hear from the pulpit every Sunday, we very much try to extend a warm welcome (and generally succeed, I think!) to all of our visitors.  Once a visitor becomes more than just a visitor, however, and decides to make the Advent his or her Christian home, then it is time for that visitor to become a member of the Parish.

To be a member of the Church of the Advent, one must commit both to regular worship at and regular financial support of the Parish.  At the Advent, as is the general Episcopal tradition, we commit to support the church financially with a pledge of giving for the upcoming year through the annual Stewardship Campaign.

By our Parish by-laws, only members of the Parish who make a recorded financial contribution are allowed to vote at the Annual Meeting, and only financially supporting members of the Parish may serve as Vestrymen and Officers.  By Parish tradition, we have extended this requirement to the other ministries in the Church, from acolytes to ushers to readers to church school teachers, and on and on, all of whom must also be pledging members.

Membership in the Parish is a way of formalizing your spiritual discipline of regular worship in and regular support of God’s holy church.  If you have not supported the Advent financially in a regular way, but think of it as your church, your spiritual home, or your Christian family, this is an especial call to you.

Pledging

Pledge cards are available at the back of the church or you may contact the parish office to get one.

Once you have made the decision to pledge, hopefully prayerfully and joyfully, you can fill out your card and return it to the Advent in a collection plate on any given Sunday, with the First Sunday of Advent, which is November 30, being the deadline of sorts.  We make the First Sunday of Advent our deadline for three reasons:

There are a few questions the pledge card will ask, other than the amount of your annual pledge - such as whether you want to pay weekly or monthly, or whether you want envelopes for your pledge or not.  You may answer these as you like, as there are many ways to follow through on your pledge. 

Record-Keeping

Once your pledge card is received by the Parish, it will be recorded in the Parish office.  It then becomes your responsibility to fulfill the pledge during the upcoming year.  Some people put a check weekly or monthly in a pledge envelope and drop it in the collection plate.  Others simply have their bank or online bill-pay send a regular check.  If you give cash, though, it is important to put the cash in an official pledge envelope so that it can be recorded as given by you, and count toward you pledge.

Your financial contributions will be recorded by the Parish office toward the fulfillment of your pledge.  A statement will be mailed to you in April, July, October, and early in December, with a record of your pledge and your donations to date, so that you can keep track of how you are doing on your promise, or make sure that the Parish office hasn’t missed something (which very rarely happens, I am pleased to say!).  And, of course, every January the parish office will send you a statement for tax purposes.

Questions or Discussion

Members of the Stewardship Committee would love the chance to talk to you individually about stewardship and giving at the Advent.  As we have said before, our Stewardship Campaign is not first and foremost about collecting dollars to pay for the church’s electric bill, though that is important.  It is about giving all members of this our Christian family a formal opportunity to deepen our relationship with God through the sacrificial giving that our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ asks of each of us.  Let us all use this Stewardship Campaign as a chance to examine our relationship with money and all worldly things, and to ask God to help us to redirect our eyes and our hearts to those things of eternal value.

If you would like to speak with a member of the committee, please feel free to do so directly, or contact the office if you would like to have someone contact you.

Members of the Committee:
Barbara Boles Paul Roberts
Michael Gnozzio Kara Rodgers
David Lapin Adam Rutledge
Philip Le Quesne Steven Sayers
Peter Madsen Fr. Wood
Meg Nelson Fr. Warren
Thatcher Gearhart, Chairman

 

offering plate